Delays in cargo clearance at Beitbridge

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Beitbridge Bureau

It’s still taking up to 28 hours for a truck carrying commercial cargo to clear border controls at Beitbridge Border Post, with traffic building up as more importers and exporters in Sadc switch transit traffic from Botswana to Zimbabwe.

According to transporters, the situation has been the same since Thursday last week with commercial trucks experiencing long delays related to the new Covid-19 clearance procedures by Port Health in South Africa.

South Africa upgraded its standard operations procedure for health checks from October 1.

Truck drivers, crew members and frequent travellers now have to produce Covid-19 test results that are not over 72 hours old.

The results remain valid for 14 days after the first movement, but all truck drivers testing positive will be handled under new guidelines of the South African Department of Health.

The delays started when South Africa temporarily stopped accepting commercial trucks from Sadc where drivers had no such certificates, just the clearance documents from their home countries. This resulted in the commercial cargo forming long queues for more than 5km in Beitbridge town.

Things got better at the intervention of Zimbabweans border authorities, where the old procedures were still allowed for tracks that started their journey before the new procedures came into force, although later journeys now need the Covid-19 test results.

However, the trucks continue to leave the country at a slower pace with some taking between 24 and 28 hours to cross the border.

According to the local chairperson of the commercial transport operators, Mr Osbert Shumba, the situation had been made worse by the influx of more trucks which used to access South Africa and other Sadc countries via Botswana.

Botswana has extended its lockdown which comes with more stringent border control measures leaving Zimbabwe as a transit route of choice.

“We have engaged the South African Revenue Services (SARS) over the delays and they have assured us that things will improve in due course.

“On October 1 there were delays linked to Covid-19 test compliance issues which delayed the movement of goods. That has been resolved and you will note that a delay in 12 hours is too much in this sector. You will get trucks piling up like what is happening now,” said Mr Shumba.

He said the delays were also worsened by the upgrading of the SARS system on Friday.

The official said they will continue to engage border authorities to ensure a speedy flow of commercial cargo. SARS spokesperson, Mr Siphithi Sibeko was not available for comment yesterday.

Yesterday trucks were still arriving in the border town and some were being marshalled to truck parks by the police to decongest the major road leading to Bulawayo and Harare.

Since the start of the lockdown in March, the volume of commercial trucks has been increasing at Beitbridge after many countries in the region closed their borders to contain the spread of the pandemic.

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